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HELP! My first Sheet Mulch!!  RSS feed

 
Anne Reuter
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Alright, I am from Iowa and super new to Permaculture and super excited about it.. so much that my husband and family got a little scared when I told them how I am planning on sheet mulching. But I did it anyways.. And now after all the things I had to listen to, I got a little scared about planting in it right away and burning all my plants cause of the chicken poop that I added.

Here my sheet mulch for 200 square feet of vegetable garden:

organic matter (veggie scraps)
a 5 gallon bucket of chicken poop, sprinkled on

newspaper and cardboard

a 2.5 gallon bucket of chicken poop sprinkled on
some veggie scraps, egg shells

two bails of straw

The thing is that I wanna plant in it within the next month.. so now I am debating on whether or not it was a good idea to add chicken poop, cause I don't wanna burn the plants.

And I am also debating on now just adding topsoil and how many inches and to top it off with straw.
Or if I should also add another layer of horse poop??

Maybe somebody could help me with all my questions!?
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Anne
I get a bit cofused by terminology...I think of sheet mulch as generally a (heavy) layer of something to stop something growing.
Your description sounds like what I'd think of a 'lasagna garden', but like I say...
So everything's down already, in the order you describe?
If so, is the manure fresh? Chicken poo can be very 'hot', and while I'd love to say "it'll be fine!", I'm afraid it might not be a great idea to plant in directly.
Do you know the source?

I wouldn't add 'topsoil'; it's very often basically poor subsoil.
You don't mention compost.; that's what I'd be after to dilute and balance things.
Cucurbits like squash, melons, cucumbers etc often do well in a new, 'hot' bed. Also rhubarb, but that's perennial.


 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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I would plant it, just not with plants or seeds that are very valuable to you. It is important to have some type of cover, otherwise weed seeds will have an opportunity to land and germinate on top. Also, having plants to shade the bed will help hold in moisture and your material will break down much faster and better than without them. If you don't want to risk burning veggies then just sew it with a green manure crop like oats or buckwheat.

In a new bed I think it is a good idea to top it off with a couple of inches of top soil or compost. If you have trouble getting material you can make small pockets of soil just where the plants go. Straw or other mulch on top can be a good idea, but wait until the soil has a chance to warm before adding it. The chicken manure might be too hot and kill off some plants this season, but at least you will know why and learn some things in the process. Next season it won't be a problem at all. (FYI I mean too hot chemically, as in too much nitrogen. Sheet mulch rarely has enough bulk to heat up temperature wise like as in hot compost.)

Not sure about proper definitions for lasagna vs. sheet mulch but I have heard them used pretty much interchangably. I believe that the term lasagna gardening comes from a specific publication with a detailed method, but I have not read it and the name excapes me at the moment. I think of sheet mulching as a larger area and lasagna as a smaller garden.

Hope this helps, and enjoy your new garden! We have had great success with this. I strongly doubt I will ever till again.
 
Anne Reuter
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Thanks so much for your welcome and your advice!
I am calling it sheet mulching like Toby Hemenway in gaia's garden. That's the book I got the idea from.

I put everything down last weekend.

chicken poop
newspaper
chicken poop
veggie scraps
straw

The chicken poop is coming from my father in laws chickens that he had in his barn. The poop is, well 3 month old.. and all dried up.

I am looking for compost everywhere.. but it seems like, nobody is doing this around here. And my compost I just started, is not ready for a while. So I might just have to opt for
some soil that is sitting out for a couple of years at a friends concrete business.

Or I thought about buying a couple of compost bags at our Garden store and just do these pockets.

Somebody else told me to let the sheet mulch sit till the end of may and than start planting in it and I might be fine!
What you think??

We are expecting a lot of rain this week and warmer temperatures after the weekend. I was hoping that this would get things going in there, so it will dilute and break down a little.

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dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Anne, was the chicken manure mixed with bedding, or straight? If mixed with bedding, and 3 months old and dry, it doesn't sound like too much to me. I like the mixed sheet mulch, too, like you are using. But, you could just add a thin layer (an inch or so) of topsoil or purchased compost, to plant into. By the time the seeds sprout and put roots down, the manure will probably be starting to break down and won't be so hot, in my opinion. If you use plants, you might want to add a trowelful or two of compost in a small hole to make a planting spot. It does take regular watering, at least in dry weather, to keep things growing on top of a sheet mulch.

Last year I laid down a sheet mulch, using horse manure mixed with hay, straw, leaves, etc, in layers, with an inch of compost on top to plant my seeds. I got some nice crops of bush beans, carrots, and lots of other veggies. This year, I let my chickens in to scratch up the residues, and get the soil ready to replant. I now have a nice deep soil, all made from the sheet mulch I put down last year.
 
Anne Reuter
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It was mixed with I think wood chips bedding.. I don't think they cleaned the stall out on a regular basis.. so I would say that some of that stuff was even older than 3 month.
Thank you so much for your reply.. it really helps a lot.. I will have my husband hall me in a truck load of soil and put that down and mix it up with as much compost as I can find. Sadly I am surrounded by non organic farmers where I live and COMPOST is a word from another planet. So until my compost is producing, I will have to make due with some bagged compost from a garden store.
Well, and I am attempting to grow some stuff in a square foot garden on my porch as well.. so I will just experiment with it this summer and see what happens and learn.
Maybe I post an update in a couple of month!
Anne
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dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Good luck, Anne. Hope it works out well for you. Remember, too, you can use your fence and arbor to grow vertical crops to get even more out of your garden space.

I would suggest dividing your garden space into planting beds, narrow ones by the fence (no more than 2 feet wide or so) and 4' wide in the center, with obvious paths, so you don't walk in the actual planting areas. Use whatever shape you like for the beds. Keyholes are nice, but in cold winter areas square or rectangular beds are easier to cover with tunnels to extend the season of harvest. Put the topsoil and compost on the beds, and use wood chips or old hay or carpet for the paths, so there is a distinct difference. The edge beds could be used for peas, beans, tomatoes, cucs, etc, that could climb on the fence or be tied to it. You could use your square foot bed near the house for herbs or salad crops that need more attention or are picked more often.

 
Milja Hahto
Posts: 25
Location: Finland, northern Satakunta
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Anne, I'd love to hear how it has turned out. I'm in a bit similar situation - there's some 10cm soil, all used by the grass, and below that just hard clay (or, where there once was a building, a compact mixture of gravel and sand).
 
suomi--Nicola Lloyd
Posts: 51
Location: Finland
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Hei Milja, welcome to Permies. Just to let you know we have our own Scandanavian forum in the regional section, it would be great if you can also post on there, we need to get as much info as we can.
The best time to mulch is when the ground is wet, which right now is pretty difficult as its SO hot, its up to 30c today and no sign of rain any time soon!!!
We have sheep and chickens so we are lucky to have mulch ready to use.We usually do a heavy mulch in the autumn when its wet, it then has the winter and part of the spring to do its thing and its then ready to plant in. prhaps if there are any farms near by you could ask for some old straw and start with that.
What are you hoping to grow?
By the way we are close to Savonlinna, where are you?

Nicola.
 
Milja Hahto
Posts: 25
Location: Finland, northern Satakunta
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Thanks Nicola - I actually found this forum through a hint to that scandinavian section, but it's not enough to follow only that yet and this discussion happened to deal a similar situation... I'll be more on the recieving side of information exchange for a quite some time still, as I'm a total newbie. It would be lovely to find someone close enough to visit, too, or to find the time to visit a permacourse or smth. We live on the border of Satakunta, Etelä-Pohjanmaa and Pirkanmaa.

We don't and won't have livestock, and our indoor cats dont' produce THAT much manure, but I think we might get some horse manure with mostly just the transportation costs. Straw, maybe... At the moment we have old cutter shavings used as insulation in our roof terrace (molden due to consturction mistakes, thus removed - I'm really grateful it hasn't been raining for a while!) What I don't have is the money to buy any substantial amounts of good compost. The grass has been planted (before I moved here) on cheap "topsoil" (= from an old field) which definitely came with perennial weed roots. They aren't a problem as long as only grass is grown, but they are still alive there and start taking over if they get a chance.

I'm hoping to grow
- hedges, as this a windy field and there's no privacy whatsoever - this is really a priority!
- a few fruit trees and some more berry trees and bushes
- something else to eat
- a lot of beatiful things to see (really missing that part!) - trees, bushes, perennials

I suppose the mulch has to be really thick for those trees. The clay is so hard you can't dig through it with a spade - an iron lever is needed. Think of 9m clay as in parts of Pohjanmaa. And as realistically we might only have some 20 years here, I'd like to get this started and growing fast. Especially all those hedges and trees. We don't even have much shade here, as the house is on the north-east end of this long area. Oh well, we DO have birches in the middle, but as they have so utterly competitive root system, I'm dreaming of replacing them with something else.

This plot is a bit too much of challenge for me, but at the moment I'm trying to concentrate on those hedges, first trees and such. When I get reasonable plot done (=in a sensible scale and all fixed things marked), I think I'll post it on the scandinavian section for comments with a wider description. Just have to manage some urgent things during the next few weeks first...
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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